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Cover Reveal: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter

Book Cover: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter by Tonya Cannariato

Presenting… the cover of book 3 of my Planet Seekers series.

I finally have some confidence that I’ll have the energy and time to write the story that concludes this arc, so I”m happy to share the excellent work my cover artist at Sleepy Fox Studio produced for me… last year.

As per my previous practice, I’m adding the word counter to my sidebar so you can track my progress. If all goes well, I should be able to publish this next year.

Wish me luck!

Sacred Space

[woman with a galaxy for the top half of her head] Quote: "Wisdom and compassion flow from simplicity and clarity; from having nothing to prove and nothing to defend." - Barry Magid

Another year round the sun completed. It’s ironic to me that the heat and humidity of my least favorite season also means adding a number to my age. This year, there was a lot to celebrate, but very little time to do so. I’m spending more time at the office again these days, notwithstanding reporting that the “3-day return to the office is a dud” or that “the return to the office isn’t working“. As with most things, generic answers don’t fit all circumstances, and certain roles and industries require more flexibility than others.

Still, I miss the days of being fully remote, now that we have a house where I can create endless projects for myself. Our solar installation passed county inspection at the end of July, and the electric company estimates our system will be approved to go live by the middle of August. The first phase of our landscaping revamp went in shortly before my birthday, and now that I have my first raised bed in place, I’m spending more time searching for asparagus and artichokes than words and wisdom. I hadn’t ever considered that in zone 7 (as Virginia is) you could have a late-summer round of planting to allow for a late fall harvest. And we’re starting to get acquainted with the local wildlife – just this afternoon, I watched a young buck munching the tall grass in our back meadow, and this evening I discovered an eastern rat snake curled up and digesting (and being harassed by a mockingbird) at the foot of a tree at the front of our property. There’s also apparently a fox who’s mightily interested in the raised bed, as our cameras have recorded his investigations at 10-minute intervals the past few nights. All of which makes for an interesting, local interpretation of the wildlife infrastructure movement underfoot around global roadways.

Spending time at home with these kinds of projects has certainly given me time to listen to my own heartbeat. Research about the power of interoception points to that being a reliable marker for emotional intelligence, which I find an interesting commentary about humanity’s choice to live in cities, where ubiquitous mechanical noise makes it much harder to pay attention to the subtle signals coming from within. More obvious are the signals for weariness.

I’ve written in the past about the challenges I face as a congenital night owl. In the past couple months, I’ve run across two more articles highlighting the reasons to pay attention to the impact of those habits. The first reiterates findings about the increased likelihood of night owls to have shortened life spans, and the second points to the unrecognized cognitive deficiencies associated with sleep deprivation. We have been doing better recently at enforcing earlier bedtimes on ourselves, though my increase in office hours has ended up meaning a net-zero impact.

In a word, while we’re mostly settled, we still don’t have a rhythm that allows us to fully relax into the wonder of our new home. Nor even fully catch up with the correspondence I’d promised to answer in my last blog post, nearly two months ago.

It seems the state of the world in general is rushing forward, though to what end remains murky. Reporting on how democracies spy on their citizens compounds reporting on our post-Roe world. I hope more people are willing to find the space described in “How to stay open and curious in hard conversations,” since we’ve all been wrong about something at least once in our lives. It would mark significant progress if our society could back away from the polarization that seems endemic now, and recognize the shades within absolutist positions.

In the end, seeing how long it takes to get things done, I suspect I’ll remain in this liminal state for another month or three. Gayla and I have been discussing the possibility of kicking off a new, co-written project, but she, too, is caught in the whirlwinds of change, so we’ll see how far we get – especially as we have officially zero words actually written.

As always, I’ll keep you posted here.

Totally There

"Wherever you are, be there totally."
-Eckhart Tolle

I’m back. Or at least, enough of a degree of settled into our new place that our updated rhythms are starting to feel normal, and we’re finally past the most urgent of pushes to put things where they belong and fix the things that weren’t quite up to standard. Strangely, someone visited the blog today to read the post I’d written about the heartbreak involved in getting our Milwaukee home ready to sell. It was an odd reminder of the predictable and unpredictable ways houses need upkeep and maintenance.

And an interesting reflection on the state of the rental property we left behind. As we packed out, we discovered extensive black mold along the entirety of the north wall of the basement, on top of the other issues that plagued us. Within a week of being in the new house, we both noticed the improvement in our health. Even our youngest Husky, who last year scratched open her whole face for several months running with extreme allergic response itching, hasn’t been scratching as much or as hard now that we’re here.

Our intrepid real estate agent, Susie Branco Zinn, had recommendations and guidance to respond to every question we had – from getting our home inspected, to finding contractors to put in a husky-proof fence before we moved in, to pointing us toward reliable service-providers. She made buying our house in an overheated real estate market as stress-free as was possible and I will sing her praises for the rest of my life for her contribution to our miracle. Interesting new research about how “Sesshaft” (German word describing a sense of being rooted to a place) Americans have become, and stories from colleagues who had spent months searching, and had multitudes of offers declined, were the backdrop for why I see our experience as such an outlier. I also followed some of these tips for lightening our load prior to our move… and yet we still ended up paying movers to move nearly 11,000 pounds of our stuff. The State Department’s old rule of thumb of 1,000 pounds per year of a family being together… was distressingly on target.

Luckily, for as stressful as moving is, neither of us hit the burn-out threshold. The ones who took the move hardest were our dogs. They completely denied their breed’s basis of having been companions to nomads and therefore more likely to be flexible in the face of change. The girls don’t like the new, permanent dog doors at all, and are leery about all the stairs in the new place. I’m crossing my fingers that as the number of daily disruptions decrease, their level of comfort will increase.

All of that to say… I know there are people who have reached out in recent months who’ve fallen to the bottom of my newly exploded to-do list. I apologize and will reach out individually in the next month or so. Since I’m still catching up on my day job’s to-do list, too, my evenings and weekends aren’t quite available for word-herding yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m looking forward to committing book 3 of the Planet Seekers series to paper. You’ll see my progress documented here, so keep an eye out for a return to my more regular cadence of blog posts. Thank you, everyone, for your patience in the meantime.

Control and Changes

I am never in control of what happens around me, but I am always in control of what happens within me.

The landscape of the various health issues that have plagued me in recent years has changed in the past few months. I’ve had more trouble with asthma as I wean myself off my steroid-based inhaler, but also a little more energy as we bring the h-pylori and candida under control, along with changing some of my hormonal profile. As is generally the case, that bit of extra energy got hijacked by some thoroughly unexpected news last week: Our landlord decided that for personal reasons, seven and a half years was enough. We are being forced to move by the end of April.

Initially the distress and shock of the announcement gave us a sleepless night. Then we started haunting Zillow. Monday (Valentine’s day) we found a new listing that we were able to see Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday night we’d made an offer that was accepted Wednesday night.

We’re actually buying a house. A few years earlier than the timeline we’d imagined as necessary.

Now our move is on the fast track. Now we’re dealing with entirely different stresses. And the old Psyche article about “being on the fence” is our lived experience. Our pups are keeping a close eye on us, and it’s interesting calling back to a Guardian article summarizing some of the cognitive research about canine emotional resonance with humans in this new context. It’s also useful to implement some of the coping mechanisms outlined in “Sunday-night scaries” – even though the level of existential dread described there doesn’t quite line up with the just… very-busy-brain experience hubs and I are dealing with. And then there’s the extra bit of adjustment required for my evolving cadence of hybrid work.

The news that soothes my spirit is that our new house is in an HOA-free community, so I can proceed with plans to rewild our 4+ acres, and do what I can to counteract the sixth extinction event in my little corner of the world. I may or may not experiment with an electricity-free way of keeping food cool, too.

Interesting research about black holes stretches my brain to think about some of the stories that have been simmering in the back of my mind over the past year. And then there’s the recent discovery that being in space causes humans to become anemic. Closer to current reality is the fact that after decades of hubs and me seeking out the streaking, bright light of the ISS in the night sky… it’s close to its fiery end.

On top of all that, I recently read research about the universe being a neural network, and the nature of consciousness.

It’s always fascinating to me to see the current shape of just how much we don’t know – and the corollary arrogance of those who are sure they can explain away these mysteries.

So I’ll be going radio silent for another few months as we transplant ourselves an hour south under the pressure of an at-once fixed deadline, but also one that affords us the flexibility of making many small trips to shift breakable bits and clothes without having to pay for that privilege. The distance between our closing date (March 9) and our final move-out date (April 30), and the relative nearness of our two abodes means we at least won’t be facing the time/space pressure of limited truck space and a one-way trip.

I am grateful. For so many of the things, big and small, that lined up to allow us to inject a little stability into the uncertainty of our world. And I am confident that being closer to nature will improve my energetic health, and therefore also my ability to return to fiction writing. So keep your fingers crossed for us as we embark on this new adventure. I will return once we’re settled.

…Or Bust? Busted.

For me, alone time isn't lonely or empty, it's sacred.

It’s been almost half a year since I last posted. I’ve been thinking I could churn out an update for several months now. But this year, my allergies took me entirely out of the game. I had planned on releasing audiobook versions of at least several of my books this year–and owe two of them to very patient contest winners from this spring. But the raspy, phlegmy version of my voice is not something I want to inflict on anyone.

Then I had the thought that maybe I could get back in the writing groove with NaNo. Something about the communal energy of producing words has always previously worked as a spur to my creative energy.

Instead, after a multitude of doctor visits and an array of tests (which are actually still in progress), I’ve discovered my adrenal function is basically at zero, and I’m allergic to everything in the world except cacao, penicillin, and white mulberries. Complicating my health picture are leaky gut and a crazy overgrowth of candida. I’m managing to drag myself through my existence by dint of willpower, which doesn’t leave energy after work hours for sitting even longer at the keyboard and producing my next story or blog post… or keeping up with Discord chats.

Following my inclination to hibernate has meant I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying my own company. Meditating. Aligning myself with the sacred. Embracing the fact that I am an introvert who could happily avoid 99% of human contact for months at a time.

Then I compounded the fun with a dislocated rib and shoulder on Thanksgiving. I’m not even sure how I managed those injuries, but the radiating pain and the numbness in my outer left fingers made me wonder for a short while whether I was having a heart attack.

As evidenced by this sign of life, some of our initial efforts to turn the ship seem to be paying off.

I still feel mostly broken. Mostly like the limit of what I can accomplish is a minimal baseline of feeding myself and my family and making sure my pups get their daily walks, while keeping up with my day job responsibilities. I have a backlog of reviews I was supposed to have posted over the summer, and work-related courses I’m still supposed to take.

Because certainly, The Great Resignation hit my team with a vengeance. A third of my staff elected to take control of their lives by changing the main thing they could: Their jobs. Think pieces like the one from the New Yorker may have some basis in fact for some segments, but did not reflect the things I was hearing from my colleagues. And what I’m hearing now about a reluctance to return to a full-time office gig are complicating conversations about how we manage our work and our time. Learning to balance work time with self time adds a different layer to the conversation, and I’m hearing more people talk about the different stressors they live with. Which makes this HBR article about the phases of making a major life change useful.

Choosing to spend time walking the doggies daily has turned out to be one of our most grounding, soul-feeding activities. Backed by research that indicates 20 minutes for three days per week is the minimum to see that benefit. (But only if done when not accompanied by your active cell phone screen…)

I’m hopeful my annual holiday break at the end of the year helps me complete the system reset we’re currently kicking off. I still have stories I’d like to write–in my mind, chapter 1 of book 3 is mostly written, and I have some ideas about the trajectory of Dr. Marina’s character arc that I think will satisfy readers… and reflect some of the inner journey I’ve been on this year.

Here’s wishing my readers a satisfying holiday season that allows you to find the sacred space it is intended to remind us all of. And learn to rest well.

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